Drug trial hinges on legality of police search

A decision is expected today on whether the discovery by police of 78 kilograms of marijuana in a pickup will be allowed as evidence in an unusual trafficking trial.

A decision is expected today on whether the discovery by police of 78 kilograms of marijuana in a pickup will be allowed as evidence in an unusual trafficking trial.

If Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Wayne Renke rules the initial search that led to the marijuana seizure in November 2013 was illegal the case will collapse against Michael Jackson, 53, who has been charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking.

Crown prosecutor John Lee and Calgary defence lawyer Hersh Wolch made their arguments in court on Monday as to whether to allow the critical marijuana evidence. The marijuana was found vacuum-sealed in plastic bags inside eight doubled garbage bags in the back of Jackson’s pickup, which was being held in the Rocky Mountain House RCMP detachment garage at the time.

The truck had been seized by police for examination because it was involved in a fatal accident on Hwy 11 west of Rocky Mountain House a day earlier. Jackson was the driver but was not charged in connection with that incident.

A 14-year-old pedestrian from Eden Valley was hit while she was standing or walking near an SUV that was parked by the side of the highway about 40 km west of Rocky.

When Jackson got out to help he was attacked by the occupants of the SUV, one of whom smashed his windows. He drove off and the SUV occupants put the girl in the back and drove towards Rocky, where their vehicle hit the ditch.

The girl was pronounced dead at the scene.

Jackson was pulled over further down the road and he was taken to hospital for treatment.

A pair of police officers testified the marijuana was found as they searched the garage for the source of a “faint” marijuana smell. They thought it might have been from an exhibit improperly stored in the area.

After failing to find anything amiss, they looked inside the canopy of the pickup truck and saw garbage bags. They opened two closed garbage bags, one inside the other, and discovered marijuana buds sealed in plastic.

At that point, realizing the implications of the discovery they stopped and obtained a search warrant to search the truck. After uncovering the rest of the marijuana, Jackson was charged.

Wolch argued, however, the police had no right to search the truck without a warrant.

Jackson, who had not been charged with any crime, had the right to expect that his property would not be searched without due cause, Wolch said.

“He has that right and it was flagrantly ignored.”

Wolch pointed to testimony that one of the officers involved in the search didn’t consider it an official search, and the other didn’t know under what authority he was searching.

“It’s simply not good enough to say I wasn’t searching, or I didn’t know what my authority was.”

The Crown prosecutor said Jackson’s expectation of privacy was limited considering his vehicle was in police custody and was to be thoroughly examined within a day or two.

Lee said while the search likely went “one step too far” it was a mistake that happened unexpectedly as they searched for the source of the marijuana smell.

When the officers checked inside the garbage bag it wasn’t in the context of a drug investigation, and as soon as they realized what they had found they stopped further searching until they had a warrant, he said.

As well, based on a faint smell of marijuana in a police garage, it’s unlikely a search warrant application would have been approved or held up in court.

Justice Renke said his decision will amount to deciding who gets the “advantage of the error” by police, the state or Jackson. His ruling is expected on Tuesday morning.

Just Posted

Festival of Trees volunteers honoured at breakfast

This year’s Festival of Trees was able to provide the Red Deer… Continue reading

Two Red Deer filmmakers are finalists in web-series contest

Angel Peterson and Jason Steele are each creating pilot episodes with $20,000 prize

Sexual predator preyed on his own young daughter and niece

Eckville man sexually assaulted numerous children as young as two for nearly a decade

Scheer’s resignation tips party into internal war over school tuition payments

OTTAWA — Signs began to emerge Friday that the coming race to… Continue reading

Man who tried to kill Edmonton police officer, pedestrians sentenced to 28 years

EDMONTON — A man convicted of attacking an Edmonton police officer and… Continue reading

Drug bust: Red Deer RCMP seize drugs, cash, vehicles

Criminals are getting creative. Red Deer RCMP have seized cash and vehicles… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Thursday Join us at the Senior Center Downtown House (5414 43 St.… Continue reading

Regina police say male driver dies at scene after collision with large truck

REGINA — Police in Regina are investigating a fatal crash in the… Continue reading

From fourth place, Singh says he’d rather push Liberals than work with Tories

OTTAWA — The New Democratic Party is sitting in fourth place after… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $31 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $31 million jackpot… Continue reading

Vancouver homeless camp brings community, safety, home, says resident

VANCOUVER — Standing out in the rain on a path between tents… Continue reading

Advocate says Winnipeg must tackle poverty, addictions to end violent crime

WINNIPEG — A recent spike in violent crime in Manitoba’s capital has… Continue reading

Grizzly bears move north in High Arctic as climate change expands range

Some unlikely neighbours are moving in around the northernmost communities of the… Continue reading

Lawyers for QuadrigaCX clients request exhumation of late founder’s remains

HALIFAX — Lawyers for clients who lost millions in the bankruptcy of… Continue reading

Most Read